Present, in January 2023, were: The Ant, Aunty Ant, Lioness, Parker, Amazing J
Baffled conversation while booking this room – Lioness and Parker announced they had never done a prison break. That can’t be right, surely? In seven years of escaping, how have they not done one of the most basic Escape Room formats? The rest of us have done loads! So we got counting and, newsflash!, actually the remainder of the team haven’t really done that many either. Just counting the conventional jail genre (not jungle/wild west/pirate/spaceship prisons). Aunty Ant’s very first game ever was an Alcatraz, but then that’s all. I’ve done three “memorable” games – the defunct Maine State Prison by Trapp’d was a very early one, followed by its vanilla sequel Cartel, plus Clue HQ’s Cell Block C. But feels like many more. Is it the “played one prison, played ’em all” feeling? We were keen to see if Clued Up! could offer something new.
Although many of the team have escaped in Norwich before, this was my first time, and a rare trip back since uni days at UEA. Clued Up! was a new venue for all though, on the main evening entertainment street that runs from the station into town (train might be a better option than battling Norwich traffic, although there is a carpark dead opposite). It is a Grimmauld Place type of venue – narrow doorway stretching out into a multi-level maze beyond, and was super busy, especially as it appeared for a while to be the only business open on a wet Sunday. We were well taken care of for our double header though (this was part two), with a dedicated GM, Kirsten, and plenty of space in their neat little lobbies for briefings and bag storage.
This is a very standard jail break game on paper and with my initial glance at the set I thought it might just be a bit… dull. However, I was very smartly smacked out of that by Kirsten (hitherto very mild and polite) kicking off into full prison guard mode with a hilarious and beautifully tailored acting brief, leaving us grinning in our cells and excited to get going.
A split start so, as always, be aware when escaping with kids. Shouldn’t last too long though and then the game really opens out. It is fairly non-linear, with puzzles flying around all over the place. We were zooming about and found plenty for us all to work on independently (so you can stay split up if you want). There are plenty of padlocks but also some nice little gadgets and creative use of general office equipment – I missed out on some of the toys as we worked in two groups but was never just standing around, so I didn’t mind much. We were out in 40 something minutes, just missing the leaderboard, so a decent play for a large group.
All the puzzles were solid and logical and a good mix of difficulties without being frustrating. Nearly everything was signposted sensibly and it generally felt like a well-oiled machine. Without spoilers though, the ending did catch us on the hop. A bit of a danger with non-linear and an experienced team, we did manage to bypass a couple of tasks and so opening the exit door while still holding some locked boxes did see us finish with a sense of bafflement rather than pure achievement. I still can’t be 100% on how that actually happened – it didn’t detract from the game overall but was still slightly weird…
Lioness and Parker were thoroughly satisfied with their first prison escape though. It walks the line between feeling “prison-y” enough without falling into predictable cliche, mixing a fairly light and sunny game with a little bit of grit (; and decent quality, thoughtfully applied props, with enjoyable hosting. Not a ground-breaking offering, but a solid effort that would be a decent option for beginners and enthusiasts alike.
- Storyline: Get out of jail. Actually not too bad for Escape Room logic, although the prisons commissioner might want to have a word about leaving keys scattered about.
- Theming and Set: Quite office-like, but half the game is warden’s office, so that’s allowable. Solid props. Shout out to the toilet.
- Searching: We had a search fail, after thinking we’d done quite well this time.
- Puzzles: Plenty of quite practical tasks, bit of maths. Clued Up! are also keen on pc use.
- Physicality: Steep stairs up to this room, but that’s about it.
- Scare factor: GM Kirsten definitely got the whip out, but very much more humour than any jeopardy.
- Company Age Guidance: “We recommend a lower age limit of approximately 10 years, but as every child is different it’s entirely your discretion if you are happy for them to participate in the game with you. We don’t allow access to children under the age of 8 years”. 8-14 year olds need a paying adult in the room.
- Age suitability: A suitable room for mixed age teams. Entirely possible that unsupervised 14yos would never make it out of their cells.